Skip Navigation


Security Levels


U.S. Coast Guard Awards

Charles S. Root
James Bierman

Awarded 18 September 1902

Charles S. Root, second assistant engineer, United States Revenue Cutter Service, was awarded a gold medal for heroic conduct in saving and assisting in the rescue of 34 persons from drowning during the memorable hurricane of 8 September 1900 at Galveston, TX.

In the morning there were indications of an approaching storm. By 3:00 PM the lower portions of the city were flooded to a depth of 4 or 5 feet. A half-hour later a report regarding scenes of devastation and death reached the cutter Galveston, to which Mr. Root was attached. While the commander considered sending a boat to the relief of the stricken people, Mr. Root applied for the privilege of taking a boat out. The commander granted his request and 8 members of the crew stepped forward to accompany him. Thereafter, they bravely stood by him throughout all the perilous incidents.

Swiftly overhauling the Galveston’s boat, they dragged it over the railroad tracks and launched it into Fourteenth Street. Thence they worked their way among the wreckage picking up persons swimming and afloat on flotsam. Having taken 13 into the boat, they delivered them on board the Galveston. Still resolute to continue the good work, but wanting no unwilling person in the party, Mr. Root called for volunteers. For a second trip the same crew promptly responded.

The storm was now at its height, the velocity of the wind ranged from 84 to more than 100 miles per hour. Buildings toppled over and the destructive force of the winds filled the air with flying debris of all sorts. Night soon made it impossible to handle the boat under oars. Still the men pushed on. They leapt overboard, wading or swimming as the depth allowed, dragging the boat by means of a line from pillar to post until they had rescued another 21 people. These they housed in a two-story building which seemed to be firm. They then took the boat under the lee of another structure and swam inside for temporary shelter from the deadly missiles falling all about. It was 8 PM and very dark, but three hours later the wind moderated and Mr. Root returned to his vessel with every member of his crew safe and uninjured.

In a letter forwarding the medal, the Secretary of the Treasury closed with the following paragraph:

The gold medal of the Life-Saving Service is provided by law for bestowal, in the judgment of the Secretary of the Treasury, upon such persons as perform the most heroic acts in saving life from the perils of the sea, and therefore bears the testimony that your services upon the occasion above named were of the most meritorious character--self-sacrificing, skillful, and courageous--at the jeopardy of your own life.

A gold medal was also awarded to Seaman James Bierman, United States Revenue Cutter Service, in recognition of his gallant conduct during the hurricane at Galveston. Bierman was a member of Root’s boat crew. In addition to sharing in the peril common to all his comrades, Bierman swam from point to point with a line that was used for hauling the boat. Thus, he exposed himself to much additional danger.

In addition the Silver Lifesaving Medal was awarded to the 7 other men in Assistant Engineer Root’s boat crew. Those awarded included George Jeffas, gunner; Jacob Pedersen, carpenter; W. Cormack, master-at-arms; F. Olsen, coxswain; W. Gardiner, third-class oiler; W. Idstrom, third-class oiler; and B. Rafailovich, Fireman.

Last Modified 1/12/2016